MLS contributing to the ASEAN mission

Established in 1967, the Association for Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was created to foster greater cooperation in economic and security affairs between its members. Fifty years later, MLS academics are playing a key role in helping the ASEAN states develop their competition and consumer policy and legal regimes, integral to achieving the region’s economic aspirations.

ASEAN is a regional organisation of ten Southeast Asian states (Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam) which exists to foster goals of intergovernmental cooperation in economic, socio-cultural and security affairs. In economic terms, it is one of the fastest growing and most exciting regions in the world today…and right on Australia’s doorstep!

MLS academics are playing a valuable role in contributing to the ASEAN mission. Among those, a number are working in the areas of competition and consumer policies and institution-building, key determinants of success in facilitating effective markets, free trade and foreign investment.

Professor Caron Beaton-Wells (Director, Global Competition and Consumer Law Program) has recently acted as a consultant to the ASEAN Secretariat in both the competition and consumer protection fields. She says the level of government, professional and business activity in ASEAN nations in her field has exploded in the last five to ten years.

“Progress has been galvanised by ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint which required all member states to have a competition law and enforcement agency in place by 2015. For many states, they had to start from scratch, meaning substantial assistance from a wide range of partners was required.”

Professor Beaton-Wells says this work is as interesting as it challenging due to the huge variety amongst the ten ASEAN member states.

“ASEAN states vary inordinately in terms of their economic development, legal and governmental institutions, administrative cultures and even their religions and cultures. You have everything from advanced capitalist societies to very recent democracies,” she says.

Other MLS academics contributing to developments in Southeast Asia are Professor Mark Williams, speaker and rapporteur at several ASEAN competition conferences and Director of the Asian Competition Forum, and Dr Wendy Ng, who recently received a University of Melbourne Research Grant to assess the impact of intergovernmental assistance on competition law in ASEAN states. Associate Professor Jeannie Paterson and Senior Fellow Professor Luke Nottage, together with Professor Beaton-Wells, are contributing to a book on consumer protection in ASEAN, building on their work as consultants to the ASEAN Secretariat in this field.

Professors Alison Duxbury and Jurgen Kurtz are members of the ASEAN Integration through Law Project, a major research project coordinated by the National University of Singapore (NUS) which brings together more than 80 scholars from around the world to examine ASEAN legal integration.  Alison Duxbury is working on a book manuscript on ASEAN and human rights with Dr Hsien-Li Tan from NUS.  Jurgen Kurtz is working on ASEAN and international investment law with Sungjoon Cho from Chicago-Kent University and they have recently accepted an offer of publication for a paper from the American Journal of Comparative Law.

In addition to the hub of MLS academics who are deeply engaged in ASEAN-related research, MLS also contributes to competition regime-building in Southeast Asia through its masters programs which are increasingly attracting students from ASEAN countries. Amongst the early intakes to MLS’ new online program in competition and consumer law, there have been 11 competition officials from ASEAN countries.

According to Beaton-Wells, “a brick and mortar university setting is not useful to many ASEAN countries whose competition agencies might be underfunded or completely new. Compared to this traditional setting, the MLS online masters program is flexible and accessible, while at the same time highly interactive and engaging.”

The ASEAN officials have been able to benefit from participation in the program under the ACCC’s Competition Law Implementation Program, funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and have also had the opportunity of a secondment to the ACCC.

According to Bruce Cooper, General Manager, Enforcement Strategy and Coordination Branch at the ACCC, there has been significant value in combining online study in the MLS program with practical training for the ASEAN secondees:

“For ASEAN competition officials, participation in the program presents opportunities to increase understanding of the foundations of competition economics and law, while also engaging in contemporary international debates on competition law, institutional design and agency effectiveness,” Cooper says.

The diversity of the MLS masters cohort – almost half of which comprises international students – offers a distinct advantage to students from ASEAN countries.

“The masters program allows students to interact and network with academics and professionals from all around the world – from those with well established institutions to those whose competition agencies are just starting up,” Beaton-Wells says.

Beaton-Wells underscores that, whether in the classroom or in scholarship, the work of Melbourne Law School's academics is essentially about facilitating dialogues and shared experience.

“Many ASEAN states are facing challenges that others faced five or ten years ago, so they can learn from each other as much as from other countries.”

  • Applications for the first 2018 intake to the Global Competition and Consumer Law masters program are now open.  For more information, enquiry contact details and applications, visit the GCCL website.
  • Join us for an ASEAN-themed seminar hosted by the Competition Law & Economics Network and Asian Law Centre on 21 August, on Competition Law Systems in the Philippines and Malaysia: Recent Developments, with Professor Mel Marquis. For more information and registration details, visit the CLEN website